The Staves – Live At Scala, London

Not one false note

There’s an urban myth in popular music that a natural harmony exists between sibling voices, essentially that family groups, perhaps simply because they’ve grown up singing together, sound better. Whether or not it’s true the Staveley-Taylor sisters, Emily, Jessica and Camilla, aka The Staves, possess it in abundance.

The Watford trio have been orbiting the scene for a while now, including live appearances alongside Bon Iver down the way at Wembley. These days the sororal trio are headlining in their own right and this week they brought their pared down, uplifting, acoustic arrangements to two sell-out dates at Scala.

A single naked bulb hangs over each sister and the lights go on and off in synchronicity with their alternating harmonies, reminiscent of the sequences of light and sound in Spielberg’s ‘Close Encounters Of The Third Kind’.

In fact the audience stands mute for much of the set, faces bathed in purple stage light, as if waiting for first contact with another life form. The Staves’ caressive melodies, rooted in both the British and American traditions, induce an awed, spectral hush.

The band has recently returned from California, with vivid memories of the elephant seals lining its coastline. Crowd favourites like ‘Mexico’, in which the sisters admit they like “to see the colours of another sky”, spark a brief ripple of shouts, however even shuffling percussion and outright stomps, such as in the haunting ‘Winter Trees’, only fleetingly rouse their devoted following.

In many ways The Staves are more suited to lunchtime recital at the Southbank Centre than the box-like Scala and its anarchic, punk traditions. There isn’t a false note in a venue where, over the years, there must have been countless.

New single ‘Facing West’ gets an outing as does other material from 2012’s album ‘Dead & Born & Grown’, including the excellent ‘In The Long Run', a tune about being on the road, and the Nick Drake influenced ‘Eagle Song’. ‘Gone Tomorrow’ begins the set with its opening line “Holy Moses”, and, indeed, The Staves are a revelation.

Look out too for another trio, the emerging talent that is Sivu, who provides accomplished support here. He continues the current vogue for EPs, opening with latest release ‘Bodies’. Backed by violin and cello his melancholic, but optimistic songs, move like the ice floes on a thawing Alaskan river.

They may be restrained, but both The Staves and Sivu are worth staveing the door to get into.


Words by Adrian Cross

Photos by Richard Gray


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